Thursday, October 27, 2005

Barney and Friends

So the blog seemed like a fun idea at the time.

Do my little jokey-joke thing, tell a tale or two out of school, jump the shark, go home to my moldy mansion and my weird pets.

But then I wake up and realize I've got a rotting albatross bending my neck like a Jacob the Jeweler Christ-face medallion.

Here's what the bird said just this week:

PRODUCER: So, Josh...Before we get started talking about our dumbass rewrite project that we're not even going to hire you to work on...we just need to know...Is this gonna be on the blog?
ME: I dunno. Are you gonna do something to fucking annoy me? And by annoy, I mean, other than consuming some three days of my life with conference calls where I wrack my brain to solve problems for you as you TYPE THEM INTO YOUR COMPUTER just to make sure YOU'LL HAVE MY ENTIRE BRAIN ON FILE when you want to hire somebody else?
PRODUCER: Cuz, you know, your blog can be pretty harsh.
ME: No man, we're cool. I like to wait about two years before I tell stories about producers. That pretty much guarantees they won't be in the business anymore.
ME: Yeah. Cool.

Shit like this is happening all the time.

Here's another all too-familiar bird call these days. Translations in parentheses for the Hollywood-impaired:

STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Dude. Long time no see. (I haven't thought about hiring you for two years you overpriced hostile little asshole.)
ME: How's the family? (You still have a family, don't you? Or did your wife leave you for someone who uses his dick for something other than pissing all over people's hard work?)
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: They're great. Thanks. (The bitch is fucking her spin teacher. My son's mainlining Ritalin and the only thing I know about my daughter is she won't answer to the boy's name I insisted she have.)
ME: Cool. (Cool.)
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: So buddy (asshole)--
ME: Dude (dickless wonder)
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: I love, absolutely love your blog. (My assistant printed it out and skimmed it looking for my name.)
ME: Thanks for taking the time to read it. (You couldn't spell blog if I spotted you "blog.")
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: God...Remember that last time we worked together? (My assistant reminded me of the last time we worked together.)
ME: Oh yeah. I remember EVERYTHING. (And I mean EVERYTHING.)
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Yeah...I bet that'd make a funny blog. (Don't you FUCKING DARE make that a funny blog.)
ME: I hadn't really thought about it. (All I have to do is press "Publish Post," motherfucker.)
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: Yeah...It'd probably lose something in translation. (I will crush you.)
ME: They all do...(Don't I know it.)
STUDIO EXECUTIVE: We should get the kids together. (If my whore-crone wife will get down off the spin teacher long enough to pick them up at the nanny's condo.)
ME: We'll set up a playdate. (Take heart. They're not even yours.)
ME: Cool.

Aaaahhh, I love me my Hollywood friends. They're the prettiest skulls.

As most of you know by now, I'm a pretty busy little monkey. On any given day God has commanded me to do the following:

--instruct my young boy in all things sweatpant
--honor my Ashkenazi heritage by test-driving the Mercedes E55 AMG Wagon
--eat a Chipotle burrito, occasionally adding guacamole if I have the Chipotle Buck Free Burrito Card
--talk to my agent for two minutes
--talk to my agent's assistant for seventeen minutes
--apologize to the wife
--forget an important meeting
--change a diaper and let everyone know about it
--change my son's diaper and let everyone know about it
--explain to my father why anonymous thinks I've jumped the shark
--apologize to my wife
--watch three episodes of "Dwell" on the Tivo
--give that cool "What-up" nod to that guy I know from that one place but can't recall his name
--realize ten minutes later that one place I know him from is television and his name's Scott Baio
--try to remember how old I am
--don't buy the Mercedes so I can keep it real
--call Nathan at Maserati and set up a test drive
--wonder what I'm doing wrong and why writers I hate get more work than I do
--decide not to call that asshole producer back on that shit project
--wonder what it'd be like to suddenly discover you're a musical prodigy
--poop the dog
--come up with funny lines for yesterday's pitch
--play the peepee game
--apologize to my wife
--vanity google

And that last one just kills the whole day.

Given how jam-packed my day is I have to be very judicious as to how I spend my free time. For my money, there's no better time spent than time spent reading Barney's Blog.

I cannot tell you how reassuring it is to me on those dark days when it hits me square in the face that after you die you're REALLY FUCKING DEAD and they're gonna put you in a pine box and bury you in the dirt for THE REST OF FUCKING TIME AND THERE'S NO SECOND CHANCES that while I'm still alive and vibrant and my soul hasn't yet disappeared like a fine mist I can spend AS MUCH TIME AS I WOULD LIKE READING THE EXTRA-EPISODIC THOUGHTS OF THAT WACKY WOMANIZER BARNEY!

Because nothing fills that existential hole in my heart and gives me hope for an afterlife more than the CONCRETE EVIDENCE that our television friends continue to exist EVEN WHEN THE HALF HOUR IS OVER.

I just quiver with excitement every time Barney writes a new post. Will Barney get "maximum layage with minimal effort?" How will his strategy of multiple Halloween costumes help him procure multiple Halloween Sluts? But he's not just a smart-alecky voice from the broadcast beyond, he's an inspiration to us bloggers everywhere. How about that Venn diagram? Or that Slut Spreadsheet? I mean it just kicks the shit out of John and that's a hill to climb let me tell ya.

I spend hours working on witty comments for Barney's Blog, hoping against hope that the little rascal will start a witty comments section. Oh how witty a fanboy I will be for him!

Now, I'm not exactly sure who it was who met whose mother, or why it is we give a fuck about that. I've never watched the show and at this point I'm thinking that it'd be weird to start. It's kind of like my fear of meeting Bruce Springsteen. Maybe he'd be a dick to me, maybe he'd call me "John" and I'd have to correct him...It'd be crushing.

The point is, I only like to know my heroes from a particular angle. Maybe watching Barney and the other guy and the girl and all the mother-meeting would spoil it for me. In fact, I'll even go so far as to vow that as long as Barney is blogging I will NEVER risk ruining it by watching his television show. I've made that mistake too many times in the past. I will never forget weeping--seriously weeping--while reading Archie Bunker's intimate account of Edith's rape on The dude was, like, SO sensitive and accepting. So I decided to flip on the show the next week--and Holy Christ the man's a fat old bigot! How could I have been so blind? I yanked him outta my sidebar links so fast it made my Technorati spin.

Then there was that time I got into a serious flame war with this one asshole on Leather Tuscadero's blog when he suggested it was against WGA regulations for craven network marketing executives to require tv writers to help Leather write some of her posts and I couldn't believe Leather would let ANYONE do anything that may violate the Minimum Basic Agreement because Leather had such a strong sense of justice...

But I digress. This is about the divine-inspired glory that is Barney.

I only have one problem with his blog.

I wish that lazy fucker'd post more.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Many of you seem disturbed that I wear sweatpants.

And to that I would quote the great Andrew Marlowe and say this:

Get off my fucking blog.

The fact is, other than free sushi and a seven figure income, dressing like a sweaty fat Russian mobster is the single best part of being a multi-platinum-selling Hollywood screenwriter such as myself. That swish-swish sound your thighs make as you walk down the studio halls, the feeling of the polyester sliding on the black leather as you recline in the inevitable Eames chair and pop the top on your Diet Coke...

My God I'm getting Russian just thinking about it.

Because understand this: what you wear and how you look when you go to a meeting is of the utmost importance. Every interaction between a writer and an executive is a carefully orchestrated mating dance between power and creativity. It is Noh theater where every mask has been carved into a smile capable of four minutes of small talk about the newest Jon Krakauer book that the mask hasn't even read.

And by the way, when I say "power and creativity" let's be perfectly clear. They've got the power. And you sure as shit better have the creativity. If for some reason you're not feeling the creative vibe, you better at least look it.

That's where the sweatpants come in.

Because you have to FLAUNT your writer lifestyle, people. Work it on the motherfucking catwalk like Miss J for Chrissakes.

A friend of mine is a very successful writer and generally obeys the successful writer lifestyle doctrine. He's a white Jewish male in his early thirties, shaves about once a month, sleeps with pretty goyim he isn't qualified to sleep with, and drives a big black car with illegally tinted windows.

But every time I see the dude he's wearing a coat and tie. Seriously. Full-metal jacket and matching windsor. Here was my conversation with him the other day.

ME: Dude. Did you go to a meeting dressed like that?
HIM: Yeah, of course.
ME: What do people SAY to you in that get-up?
HIM: They ask me if I'd just come from synagogue.

This is not a good message to send, people. Not good, at all. Your meeting outfit should NEVER remind someone behind the desk that you are a member of the Worldwide Zionist Media Conspiracy.

PEOPLE: But Josh...We know Hollywood is run by the Zionists. Isn't there a good chance that executive is a member of the Worldwide Zionist Media Conspiracy, as well? Won't that improve your friend's chance of getting hired? Reminding the exec through his dress of their co-conspirer-ness...ish...dom?

ME: Do you honestly think we've kept the conspiracy going for this long by doing shit that OBVIOUS? My God. That executive is practically OBLIGATED to NOT give my friend the job just to throw everybody else off the scent! For the love of Theodor Herzl, people...Get with the fucking pogrom.

But we've strayed just an inch or two from what my larger point is: Ties, suits, pressed pants, collared shirts, these are not monkey clothes.

These are zookeeper clothes.

And friends, if you want to be a motherfucking infinite simian, you cannot also be a zookeeper. Sure, being a zookeeper can be cool. You've got the keys swinging off that fucking ring, you're the big man at the Snack Shack, you know what time the dolphins are've got your own parking space at Paramount and aren't forced to park in that fucking overflow lot across the street on days when MI-3 has camped out ON ALL THE GODDAMN VISITOR SPACES...

But here at Josh Planet we are all about monkeys. Throwing our shit, howling at the top of our lungs while we hang our red ass out of the cage and masturbating in front of the tour group.

You cannot do that if you're a zookeeper. Things like that are frowned upon. That is the trade-off zookeepers make. Parking spaces, keys, two-year contracts with huge golden parachute production deals at the end...

But they cannot wear sweatpants to a meeting.

No way, no how.

In fact, I DARE one of them, just one, to show up to a meeting wearing sweatpants. I'll even buy a sushi lunch for the first one who does so. (And it can't be one of those three-hundred dollar Juicy outfits. It's gotta be an honest to goodness Straight Outta Foot Locker special.)

But it won't happen. I heard of an executive who tried to go tracksuit casual once--his assistant shot him with a tranq gun and the guy woke up naked in a dressing room at the Zegna store with his platinum card and his Blackberry duct-taped to his torso.

Because even though we're all on the team, we've still gotta pick sides.

And here's the corollary to the monkey/zookeeper theory: the bigger the zookeeper, the more you gotta re-affirm your monkeyness. And it's not easy believe you me...The first meeting you have with that director, the first president of production pitch, it's easy to lose your nerve and throw on that shirt you usually save for a first date.

You may as well lie down and give them your throat. It's the law of the jungle--show weakness, let them know you know they've got all the power and you're only there by their grace...they will eat you like a fucking impala.

Me, if I'm meeting with someone over the v.p. level I do two things differently: first, I strap on my expensive watch. Second, I don't wear any socks.

I find these two elements combine to make me practically invincible.

Now you should know I've got a bit of a sock hang-up to begin with...I have a hard time finding a pair that a) don't strangle my ankles or b) don't bunch up around my little toe and make me feel like I'm a drug mule with heroin packed in my shoes.

So I'm looking for just about any excuse I can to ditch the sock. It's rare, though, that I can send a MESSAGE. And the message here is this:

I, being of sound mind and Infinite Monkey body, am so ridiculously confident in my ability to absolutely write the fuck out of this project, am so thoroughly convinced that in the Writer's My So Called Life I am Jordan Catalano, that I have absolutely no problem and would never think twice about rolling out of my bed and coming right here to your insanely organized and important office three times the size of my house wearing WHATEVER THE HELL I WAS SLEEPING IN HALF AN HOUR EARLIER.

As to the expensive watch...well, a girl does love her bling.

So there's a place for everyone and everyone in their place. Sure, there's some crossover hits...Occasionally a zookeeper trades in the keys for the cage, and occasionally the monkey stops peeing in the straw, pulls a Koko and learns ASL.

(I've never really understood writers who became executives...Sort of like Jews for Jesus...which, by the way, I like to call CHRISTIANS.)

Frankly, the most impressive monkeys in the Hollywood Zoo aren't even monkeys at all.

They're actors.

Actors stand out by dressing down like nobody's business. In fact, if you walked through Beverly Hills in the middle of the day, the only people NOT dressed like actors are actors.

That's how they let you know they're actors.

The difference between the way an actor dresses down and the way a writer dresses down is the actor is very often also dirty.

Unshowered, clothes stained and unwashed...A typical Hollywood actor is so ridiculously good looking and charismatic that the only way to truly stand out by dressing down is to work it like motherfucking Pig Pen after a day of turning ten dollar tricks at a Grapevine truckstop.

Don't do this if you're a writer. You cannot pull this off. Sweatsuit casual is just that--casual--not sweaty.

Your message should be: "I'm so good and write with such grace that I remind you of a nice summery Saturday evening with that special someone you love..."

Not: "I haven't had this kind of flop smell since I lost my virginity with just enough time left to catch the bus."

But that's just me.

Shalom, fuckers.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Fear of a Josh Planet

So a few years ago I was sitting around my house wondering where my next free meal was coming from and the Dumb Fucking Lesbian calls me:

DFL: Hey. What are you doing for dinner tonight?
ME: Combining Lean Cuisine Chicken a la King with Lean Cuisine Beef Stroganoff into one fantastic meal of Lean King a la Stroganoff, why?
DFL: There's a director who wants to take you out for sushi and offer you a job writing a greenlit movie for a star.
ME: Sushi?

I throw on my best pair of mostly clean Adidas sweatpants and make a beeline to the restaurant, despite the fact that this is the same sushi restaurant where I first asked ex-girlfriend Actress "Is something wrong?"

But this is free sushi and the only downside might involve writing a script and getting paid for it (something I do try to avoid). The director is 22 years old, Asian, and by most accounts, the hottest boy wonder director of hip-hop videos this side of that one guy who directed that one video everybody loves where that one girl shakes her booty. I'm early and the Boy Wonder shows up driving the biggest SUV I've ever seen blaring the loudest rap music I've ever heard wearing the smallest glasses that could possibly fit on his face.

I'm immediately impressed.

And in case you don't think Hollywood's the smartest place on earth, here's the movie Asian/Hip-Hop Boy Wonder is directing: An action movie teaming up MARTIN LAWRENCE with A BEAUTIFUL ASIAN STARLET WHO HAPPENS TO BE A HONG KONG ACTION STAR...

If you're curious, here's how the studio "director meeting" went a month earlier:

EXEC: So we got Martin Lawrence. He's black...
OTHER EXEC: And we got Asian Action Starlet. She's...Asian?
EXEC: That's what her agent says. I've never seen her movies. Hong Kong, is like, far away.
OTHER EXEC: Totally far...So for a director we need...An Asian guy?
EXEC: Sure. Good idea. 'bout a black guy?
OTHER EXEC: Hmm. Yeahhh. A Black guy. Now you're thinking...
EXEC: Wait! I got it! How Asian guy...who thinks he's black!
OTHER EXEC: Awesome. Do we have a list for that?
EXEC: Of course we do...It's here somewhere...I think it's on the same page with "Female Directors We'd Actually Hire for Movies Budgeted over 30 million...Here it is.
OTHER EXEC: There's one name there.
EXEC: Let's call him.

So Boy Wonder plies me with toro, shows me a very detailed outline he's already written, and explains that the script needs to be written in three weeks.

ME: Three weeks?
ME: For all 120 pages?
BOY WONDER: Martin Lawrence has a window.
ME: Isn't he completely crazy?
BOY WONDER: Dehydrated.
ME: I'm in!

Here was the negotiation the next day:

STUDIO: How much do you guys want?
DFL: A buttload. You're asking him to write an entire screenplay in three weeks.
STUDIO: Boy Wonder wrote an outline. How hard can it be?
DFL: Boy Wonder is a twenty-two year old music video director.
STUDIO: But he's only working for three weeks.
DFL: And in that time he will write an ENTIRE screenplay.
DFL: I understand you've already started production offices.
STUDIO: Ahhh....crap.

(DFL was much improved by that point in her career.)

So here's the plot: Martin Lawrence is a corrupt cop who's co-opted by an ex-member of the Chinese Triads (Asian Starlet) to help her kill her old lover, a Triad leader who's hiding out in Los Angeles.

Complications ensue.

Now this was in the pre-Rush Hour days when teaming up minority cultures for wacky action comedy wasn't its own sub-genre. And despite the fact that I suspected Boy Wonder had a streak of Michael Bay in him that was just bursting to get out, he'd written a pretty good outline and I knew it'd be over in three weeks.

So I start writing and things are flowing quite freely for a few days. Near the end of the first week I read my work. (Craft note: I read my pages from back to front, bottom to top. Don't ask.) Here's what I say to myself at the end of week one:

Man. I use the word fuck a lot.

Now those of you who are familiar with my blog entries probably don't consider this to be much of a revelation. I have been known to drop the f-bomb in Rumsfeldian proportions. But I'm a bit of a pacifist when it comes to dropping the screenplay f-bomb. First of all, there's the issue of infrastructure destruction. Second, we have no exit strategy--

Oh wait. Sorry. Wrong blog. Got all Rogers there for a second.

Anyway, I don't use much fuck when I'm getting paid. (I don't get paid much to fuck, either. But that, too, is a different blog.) But here I was, averaging at least 2.5 fucks per page in my Martin Lawrence script. So I had to look deep into my heart and ask myself this question:

Am I using the word "fuck" a lot because I'm writing this for a black guy?

Sure, the character's a streetwise, corrupt, L.A. cop, and most of them swear like, well like streetwise corrupt L.A. cops. But seriously, would I write dialogue like this if he was white:

"Hey. You hear me? You're not dead are you? Bleeding out all over the back seat? 'Cuz it would really freak me like a motherfucker to be talkin' to you if you were dead--"

Pure poetry my friends.

I spend the weekend in a huge liberal freakout guilt spiral having flashbacks to the last time I co-opted black culture for my own benefit: a very poorly received performance art piece in college involving me sitting cross-legged in front a television tuned to loud static while engaged in a very awkward call and response using selected pieces from Public Enemy's "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back."

I cannot tell you how much I wish I was making that up.

So I send the pages to the Boy Wonder, figuring if someone's sensitive to racism it'd be a Hip Hop Asian. Maybe he'd tell me if I'd done something wrong.

He loved them.

Well...fuck. Now what? I decide to ask him straight out:

ME: Are you sure there aren't too many motherfuckers in there? Maybe he shouldn't talk so, I dunno, "street?"
BOY WONDER: Dude I gave your pages to Martin Lawrence's people. They think you're a fucking genius.
ME: Really?
ME: And they're like, black people?
BOY WONDER: The blackest.
ME: Well I'll be a motherfucker.
BOY WONDER: You are a motherfucker.
ME: So are you, Boy Wonder.
BOY WONDER: Now get back to work. You've got two weeks for ninety pages.

So two weeks later I'm finished with the most motherfuckingest script I have ever written. Martin Lawrence's character is, well, so fucking Martin Lawrence it's unbelievable, and Asian Starlet's character is pretty great, too. I love my little Hip Hop/Hong Kong Action movie, and so does the studio.

Only one problem.

BOY WONDER: Dude. We've gotta take a meeting with Asian Starlet at the Beverly Hills Hotel.
ME: Really? Why?
BOY WONDER: She wants to talk to you.
ME: Me?
ME: Will there be food?
BOY WONDER: I wouldn't count on it.
ME: Uh oh.

So Boy Wonder and I go to the Beverly Hills Hotel. For those of you who've never been to the Beverly Hills Hotel, just go West on Sunset Blvd and turn North onto We're Going to Fuck You Up the Ass You Stupid Fucking Infinite Monkey Avenue. You can't miss it.

There are upholstered chairs with stripes and gold framed mirrors and people eating small cakes on tiny plates. I'm wearing my dress sweatpants (the ones with socks) and Boy Wonder's taken his hair out of the pony tail. We're reading for a MEETING!

Asian Starlet walks in with a serious posse of people who NEVER SPEAK but as far as I can tell run the entire Hong Kong film industry not run by Jackie Chan. She sits across from me and I immdiately decide that she is the type of person who, upon sitting down on it, changes a couch into a divan.

ASIAN STARLET: So Josh...I just thought the two of us should sit down and have a conversation.
ME: All right. That sounds like a great idea.
ASIAN STARLET: There's a reason for the conversation, of course.
ME: Yes?
ASIAN STARLET: I wanted you to hear my English.
ME: All right. Your English is...lovely.
ASIAN STARLET: My English is perfect. My parents grew up speaking perfect English. I grew up speaking perfect English. Do you hear an accent of any type?
ME: Well, maybe a hint of British--
ASIAN STARLET: Because my English is perfect. Not many Americans know that.
ME: I'm sure they'd be surprised.
ASIAN STARLET: They should know my English is perfect. Not the way you've written it in the script.
ME: The way I--
ASIAN STARLET: You've written it in "broken English." As if I didn't speak perfect English. Is that how you think Asians speak?
ME: No. Not at all. I mean--Boy Wonder, for example, his English is almost flawless--
BOY WONDER: I'm from Texas.
ME: Like I said--
ASIAN STARLET: So you'll change it.
ME: But...and excuse me for bringing this up...YOUR CHARACTER is from mainland China and has never been abroad before. She wouldn't speak--
ASIAN STARLET: Perfect. English.

If it's possible at this point her posse GETS EVEN QUIETER.

ME: Thank you for the heads up, ma'am.


ASIAN STARLET: One more thing about the language.
ME: Uh huh...
ASIAN STARLET: Martin's character swears too much. You'll have to take all the cursing out.
ME: But...his people...they're black...
ASIAN STARLET: I've seen every episode of "Martin."
ME: "Martin?"
ASIAN STARLET: He's never cursed. Not once.
ME: "Martin?"

And here's what's in Boy Wonder's eyes: "Damn. I wonder if I can still get that Brandy video."

Three weeks later Asian Starlet drops out. The project dies a quick death as Boy Wonder and I cannot convince the studio to hire little known actress Lucy Liu.